Three ways to make poetry a spiritual practice

lenten rose

lenten roseHow has your Lenten season been? As my spiritual practice for Lent this year, I’ve written a free verse poem every day. I approached this practice with a willingness to let it change me.

What have I learned so far? First, commitment counts! I can write when I don’t feel like it. Many evenings, I didn’t feel creative. I could still create because I made the commitment I would.

Second, when I focus on the process—doing and relating, it’s harder to worry about results and effects. These poems were meant to bring me closer to God. I didn’t need to worry about who would think what about them.

Third, a “we” voice lives within me. If you’re familiar with my poetry, you’ll know I’ve been an “I” person in my poems for the past 20+ years. Each time my hand wrote “we,” I wondered where it came from. It’s a nice surprise to write from “we” and not “I”. May it continue past Lent!

Would you like to try something enjoyable and thought-provoking? I invite you to try making poetry as a spiritual practice! You can take as little as five minutes. This is my process.

Read it

I begin with reading Scripture. Before I read, I settle myself and breathe. One of the great problems of our time is our pace of life. I have to slow myself down before I read sacred words. It’s no good skimming!

Use spiritual literature that you find meaningful. It might be your holy book, a poem or a devotion. Meditate and rest in the tiny garden made of wisdom and alphabet letters that seems larger once you are inside it.

Respond to it

After I take in a small amount, I let the words digest. I imagine the scene and inhabit the feelings.

Ready yourself to receive a new understanding.

Ask yourself, What is it like physically? How is the air, the light, the water? What am I experiencing inside the words?

Write it

Then I tip my pen over and let my words pour out.

You might have a critic in your mind who is quick to judge and say, “That’s stupid!” as you write. That’s OK. Say, “Oh well!” right back to the judge and let the words spill onto the page anyway. This is between you and the Holy Spirit. Your inner critic is not part of this particular conversation.


Here are a couple of examples from my Lenten journey this year. These are unedited, raw words as I wrote them.

February 26, 2013

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
Psalm 23:2

It was a dusty, long walk. We had so much grit
in our throats, we felt like our throats had turned to
sandpaper and we sanded our own
surfaces when we swallowed.

Our feet had long since stopped hurting.
They’d gone past tired to become
wooden boats we drug over rough dirt,
the road a dry stream bed.

We smelled the heat as much as felt it.
It dried our noses and eyes.
Everything had that overbaked smell and
things fluttered in the hot wind.
When he led us to the green meadow,
we collapsed more than lay down.

We put our heads next to the sparkling stream
as if it were a long love song that
we couldn’t hear enough of.
We listened to it sparkle and flirt
with the shore, playful in its splashing.
It was not a stream in a hurry.
It meandered and strolled.
We drank and drank more.
We smiled again and talked.

March 19, 2013

I have so much to write to you but
I would rather not write with pen and ink; instead
I hope to see you soon and
we will talk together face to face.
Peace to you.
The friends send you their greetings.
Greet the friends there, each by name.
3rd Letter of John 13:15

We were full with words, like an Easter basket
so filled with eggs that
the slightest bump tumbles them out.
We couldn’t wait to be together and laugh in person,
about the misunderstandings,
the unneeded worries,
the overlooked grace.

Final thought

May the hope of Easter live in your heart this week and always!

4 thoughts on “Three ways to make poetry a spiritual practice

  1. Our pace of life is so intense that it is necessary to slow down to read and meditate! Thanks for the reminder, and I just love this: “Meditate and rest in the tiny garden made of wisdom and alphabet letters…”

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